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Budget Ideas

Trend Alert (?) Is The Accent Ceiling The New Accent Wall? + 5 Easy (and Budget-Friendly) Ways To Take Your Room To The Next Level

photo by richard powers | design by nikos moustroufis and isabel lopez-quesada | via architectural digest

There’s one particular design topic that has been pretty top of mind (pun accidentally intended) amongst Emily and the staff… and that topic is the accent ceiling. Is it a brand new idea? No. But why don’t we take advantage of them more? They are right there, above our little heads undervalued and underused. We are pretty passionate about putting a stop to this in 2020. To prove it, Julie has convinced Caitlin her dining room must have a wallpapered ceiling, Emily has been cooking up some great ceiling ideas for her kid’s shared room, and I am also thinking an accent ceiling wall would be killer way to make a design slash in my bed nook that wouldn’t dry up my funds. Guys, it’s a win-win-win!

There are a handful of ways you can approach this. You want to decide what is going to work best for you: Wallpaper or paint? Solid color or patterned? Applied moulding or plain and smooth? Overwhelmed? Relax, because today I am going to take you through all of your options, give you A TON of inspiration, and some extra little things to think about. Things are really looking up 🙂


Let’s call this what it is – a design MOMENT. Wallpapered ceilings have been popping up a lot more lately which I am truly down for. Anytime I see a photo of one of these rooms I make the immediate assumption that the homeowner is awesome because all this says to me is that, “I’m so fun and take risks.” I want to be this person, don’t you?

Emily Henderson Ceiling Wallpaper 3 1
photo by tessa neustadt | design by amber interiors

This stunner of a room (and ceiling) is by the great Amber Interiors. When I first laid eyes on this room and found out it was AI I thought it felt a little outside the box of their norm, but that made me love it and them even more. It was a risk that was very worth taking because this room would have still been beautiful if the ceiling was white but that contrasting dark floral paper takes this room to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL. It makes a very pretty room, full of pink and flowers, edgy.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Wallpaper 4photo by erik petschek | design by kelly wearstler

From one incredible design firm to another, this plaid ceiling in the newly opened Austin Proper is brought to you by the one and only Kelly Wearstler. Ok, to be fair I think that might be fabric but the principle is the same. Your eye is drawn upward giving you a delightful surprise. The plaid helps to soften and add additional character to this otherwise very modern space.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Wallpaper 5 1
photo by kara mercer | design by keri petersen

This kitchen was sent to me and I knew I had to put it in this post. Designer Keri Peterson wanted to create a Mrs. Masiel inspired kitchen and she nailed it. This vintage style kitchen is so lovely but is brought to life by that floral wallpaper. Yet, because it’s mainly overhead, it doesn’t overwhelm your direct eye line.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Wallpaper 6 1
photo by stacy goldberg | design by melissa colgan | via coco kelley

For those of you who are down for the patterned life, I truly can’t get enough of the double wallpaper look. Whether you choose a neutral color palette like this one above (can you say swoon??) or a bold color palette, just make sure that you vary the scale and/or style of pattern. The pattern scales in this one are similar but the ceiling pattern (also seen in Sara’s old apartment) is soft and natural-looking while the wall pattern has more color contrast and prominent lines/detail.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Wallpaper 7
left: photo by jessica antola | design by angela chrusciaki blehm | via domino | right: photo & design by erin kestenbaum

A simple and modern pattern is a great option, if you want more of “an accent” as opposed to “a statement” if you know what I mean. Keep the colors and pattern detail to a minimum. Don’t forget that this can be a very budget-friendly project (especially if you install it yourself), and for renter’s temporary wallpaper is always a good option. Now also keep in mind that wallpapering is ceiling is much cheaper than covering all four walls. So if you have been eyeing a pricier option maybe you could swing if you didn’t need as much? Just saying:) However, if you want an even more money-saving option, follow me because we are moving on.

Painted Pattern

All you need for this option is paint, a brush, likely some painter’s tape and your imagination. Oh, and a tall enough ladder because while a step stool with a stack of books may seem sufficient… it really isn’t… I promise (she says as unwelcome memories of near-death flash before her eyes).

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 1
photo by matthew williams | design by sarah sherman samuel | via domino

It was a wild rollercoaster watching Sarah Sherman Samuel’s Instastories of her son’s room ceiling design. I was on the edge of my seat, consumed in perfectionist’s panic as she taped this geometric pattern with nothing but her eye and then later ripped off the tape faster than I could probably run (jk, that’s just how it felt in the moment). But OF COURSE, it looked perfect and is something that is possible for anyone to do (it will probably just take a bit longer than this professional).

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 3
design by pierre yovanovitch | via remodelista

A ceiling design like this one is for someone who either has a real talent with the brush themself or has a super talented “Michelangelo-like” friend at their disposal. But the idea of highlighting your ceiling’s architecture with a cool pattern could be incredibly chic. Also, this might be my favorite ceiling ever.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 4
design by juniper tedhams | via sight unseen
Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 6 1
left: image via domino | right: photo by christian torres | design by tina rich and tali roth | via coco kelley

Since likely most of us feel most comfortable attempting the classic stripe (shout out again to painter’s tape) above are two awesome examples that with a fresh color, stripes are anything but simple and can bring so much visual interest and playfulness a space.

Painted Pattern That Continues Down The Wall

Your genius painted pattern doesn’t have to end at your ceiling/wall meet-cute. Feel free to bring the party down the wall a bit, or even all the way.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 2
image via livingetc

Emily pinned this image and I was immediately sold! Not only is the yellow stripe extension so darn cute but for this nursery it makes it feel like you are in a circus tent. What kid (or kid adult) wouldn’t want this ceiling?

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Patterns 7
image via pierre yovanovitch

As if Pierre Yovanovitch could do anything short of perfection. This ceiling/wall design takes stripes to a whole new level and keeps your eye constantly interested and happy. So if you want something outside the design norm that is still doable, take a little time and tap into your geometric mind. It is obviously worth it.

Contrasting Paint Colors

Now we all love a patterned wallpaper or a fun painted design, but there is something so stunning about a simple, single color ceiling. First off it’s way easier to actually execute AND it’s the most renter and budget-friendly option. But for this section, we are focusing on the “contrasting colored” ceiling. It’s still a risk but not a “too crazy” one.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Plain 3
design by pierre yovanovitch | via remodelista

A black-painted ceiling is a bold but beautiful choice for the right room. It works so perfectly in this space because the dark charcoal rug and darker decor accents help to visually balance the eye. It’s simple and completely chic.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Plain 2 1
photo by juli daoust | design by finn juhl | via remodelista

A pop of mustard? Yes, please! Painting your ceiling a bold neutral is a great way to take this risk but in a safer way. Just make sure that the wall color is still contrasting like with this white color. Otherwise, it may not look as intentional.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Painted Plain 5
photo by roberto ruiz | design by marta klinker | via architectural digest

But if you want to bring more bold colors into your life/ceiling than we say go for it! It’s just paint, so you can always change it without any damage (just a little bit of time lost).

Tonal Paint Colors

For those of us (yes, myself likely included) a bold color contrast might be a bit much to our eye. But that doesn’t mean we can’t join in on the ceiling fun. It’s time to think more on the tonal side…

Emily Henderson Ceiling Tonal Paint 3
photo by fanny radvik | design by elin odnegard

Take this kitchen. It’s completely neutral but instead of painting the wall a light taupe and the ceiling white (the traditional way), designer Elin Odnegard decided to go for the unexpected and flipped the colors. Now, this kitchen feels fresh and very cool.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Tonal Paint 4
photo by jonas ingerstedt | styling by jill windahl

Tonal doesn’t always mean neutral. Here we are in living in a purple and pink world. What is so great about this combo is that they chose the darker color for the wall and keep the ceiling light which helps to make the room feel tall.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Tonal Paint 6
both: photo by laure joliet | design by reath design

New EHD favorite, Reath Design, really took the colorful tonal look seriously and it’s awesome. Again they chose the darker color for the walls and kept the ceiling light. Again this is such an easy and wallet-friendly way to make your space feel very intentional and completely personal to your style.

Easy To Apply Millwork/Moulding

For those of you who want to also bring more texture to your ceilings then this section is for you. If you have been around these parts for a while you may remember our How to Add Character series from a couple of years ago. We did one on ceilings so go here for a far more in-depth education (and how-tos), but here are two of the easier options you can DIY…

Emily Henderson Ceiling Applied Mouldings 2
photo by douglass friedman | design by jeremiah brent

Strip moulding is a great and super customizable way to trick out your ceiling. Just measure and then cut strips of flat moulding and attach to ceiling (I promise there is more info in the ceiling post). Then start painting.

Emily Henderson Ceiling Applied Mouldings 1
photo by rikki snyder | design by tamara magel | via elle decor

But if you want something that covers the whole ceiling than let us recommend paneling. This could be a shiplap, v-groove or beadboard. This is also something you can order, cut and install yourself if you’d like. It’s a beautiful accent to bring serious character to your ceiling.

Ok, that’s it for our unsung room hero. I hope that you are as into the idea of paying some attention to your ceiling as we all are. There is endless inspiration out there (as shown by my near inability to delete a single photo I pinned). So if you are wanting to tackle this super worthwhile project I hope you now feel empowered. Heck, it’s Friday so you could do it this weekend if you wanted. In fact, Sara’s planning on spending her weekend convincing Mac that a wallpapered ceiling is the next project in their TV room… or maybe their bedroom. Both?

Anyways, despite us all being design drunk on this idea, what do you think? Would you dare to wallpaper your ceiling? Interested in a bold color? Any attempts and/or tips? We want to know all your thoughts and to discuss in the comments 🙂

Love you, mean it.

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4 years ago

Removing wallpaper from a ceiling would be an absolute nightmare.

4 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

I’m about to do SO MUCH removing of wallpaper from ceilings! My new house, which is 3,200 sq ft, has wallpaper on all the walls AND all the ceilings. I like some of the looks in this post, but I think I’ll be going for plain old white on my ceilings, so I don’t have to do anything more to them if I want to change the decor down the line.

4 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Yeah- I really like this idea, but I do think that in a couple of years everyone is going to be like WHY did we wallpaper the ceiling???? Still, maybe with temporary wallpaper? I’m thinking I might do this in the guest room, if I had one.

4 years ago

I would love to do something interesting with my ceilings but they are full of pot lights and even worse giant air conditioning cassettes. ☹️

LA Lady
4 years ago
Reply to  Margot

Me too! 🙁 The pot lights are not symmetrically placed on the ceiling either. This makes it a no go, right?

4 years ago

Beautiful pics, but would never hang wallpaper on a ceiling or anywhere in my home. My husband and I have removed a lot of wallpaper over the years and it is such a pain. Can’t imagine trying to remove from a ceiling! I like the idea of doing something different with paint or wood.

4 years ago
Reply to  Kim

I think temporary wallpaper is great for such accents. I was going to gold cement-tile-esque stenciling in my powder room which is painted a muted lavender but it might be a good place to do a pop of temp wallpaper on the ceiling. Do you think that is too small of space to do such a look?

4 years ago
Reply to  Sahaja

I think this works great in small spaces! We have a bathroom probably remodeled in the early 50s – every surface is tiled in turquoise with maroon accents (and a tiled swan mural behind the tub). The piece de resistance is the deep burgundy/cream floral wallpaper on the ceiling.

Lisa Hamel
4 years ago

You’ve inspired me to paint my daughter’s ceiling a pale pink! . She is 2 1/2 and is simultaneously a girly-girl and a rough and tumble adventurer. The walls are pale grey, so it would be a good balance. 🙂

4 years ago

I like this a lot! I’ve been thinking about this for my home recently. Accent walls crave too much attention and make the room feel off balance. The accent ceiling treats the entire room the same and doesn’t scream for attention, only enhances it. Thanks for sharing this!

4 years ago

I HAVE been thinking of painting the bathroom ceiling! First I thought gold, but then maybe a mauve or a bright, bold peach could look good too. Something to compliment the skin & keep the light in the room warm.

4 years ago

We added beadboard to the ceiling in small bathroom and it looks awesome. Did the same on our front porch and painted it haint blue. It is a lot less expensive than wallpaper.

4 years ago

I have sky blue ceilings in two rooms. I first did it in our guest room 13 years ago, because the room was an otherwise neutral taupe. I also use the room to exercise, so when I’m doing floor work and looking up at my ceiling, I love it! So when I was updating another room and decided on white on white for the walls and trim (I have A LOT of color in every other room in my house), I decided on doing a sky blue ceiling again. I love a lot of these looks, especially the bedroom and kitchen with the floral ceilings, but I agree with others that I’d never do wallpaper, because I spent so much time removing it my life.

4 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

I want so much to have a sky blue bedroom ceiling – have you any particular suggestions? thanks

4 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

I’m thinking about doing this is our master. Which brand/color/finish did you use?

4 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

Sorry it took so long to reply. I had to try to find the color. I used flat paint from AFM Safecoat, using the Colortrend Ambiance tints. The color is called Silent Blue (6232P). Here’s the best link I could find (you need to scroll way down to get to 6232). I thought I also had a similar paint from Benjamin Moore, but I couldn’t find it. I’m pretty sure you can tell any paint store the color and brand, and they can look up the formula to make a sample for you. At least I think the Benjamin Moore paint store near me has done that before. Good luck! The sky blue ceiling really is lovely.

4 years ago
Reply to  Andrea
Rupali Singh
4 years ago

This might be fun in a room where you don’t look at the ceiling much but it’s a terrible idea for a bedroom. I would wake up with a headache every morning if I had to go to bed starting at those stripes or crazy pink flowers

4 years ago

Wallpaper on a kitchen ceiling indicates to me that it’s a kitchen that’s looked at and photographed, but isn’t actually being used. It will be a nightmare to live with, and a total mess to remove.

4 years ago

I painted our dining room ceiling a deep, warm purple with soft yellow walls and creamy white trim. The room is not huge but has 11 foot barrel ceilings that went unnoticed when they were white. The dark wood furniture seemed a little heavy in the room before but now it is balanced.

4 years ago

I painted my guest bathroom ceiling black. Everyone loves it.

I’d love to do more, wall paper and molding have been on my list, but I have orange peel walls/ceiling. I can’t justify the cost to smooth the walls and install something. It makes me sad often.

I appreciate this post a lot. Thank you.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bre

I feel your pain about the orange peel walls and ceilings. Why was this a common finish in the US?? They didn’t mention it in the post, but I have seen a lot of pictures of glossy/lacquered ceilings. I love the light reflection but I would definitely have to smooth over the ceiling to do that 🙁

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

I think, if this is a trend, it is one that will either pass quickly or evolve into something easier on the eye than many of these.

Anne Williams
4 years ago

My small office’s ceiling was damaged from above (and ceilinged with old acoustic tiles), so I’m going to apply glue-up, styrofoam paintable tiles. They’ll go well with my 1910 Sears catalog house. I’m thinking of painting it turquoise with silver/copper overspray to accent the pattern.

4 years ago

I love a fun ceiling! I am currently renovating our 100 year old home and I am not doing one white ceiling in the place. I was so excited to see this post!

4 years ago

Yoy have to be very confident and talented to dare wallpaper on ceilings!

I love Kelly Wearstler and Pierre Yovanovitch. Others, not so much, some look horrible (pink and purple). It’s very very risky.

4 years ago
Reply to  Chuni

You have to be wealthy enough to hire someone else to put wallpaper on the ceiling and then, when you tire of it a few years later, take it down.

4 years ago

I love this trend! Although I guess it’s not really a trend because historic homes have had elaborate ceilings forever so it definitely has staying power. I’m just so hesitant to do it in my own house because our ceilings are only 8′ tall on the first floor and more like 7’6″ on the second (funky cape cod house). I’m so paranoid that anything I add will make the ceilings feel shorter. What are your thoughts on ceiling details on lower ceilings?

4 years ago

I’m currently working on a skinny shiplap ceiling for my laundry room. I love it so!

4 years ago

I love everything about this and I wouldn’t even call it a trend because decorative ceilings have been popular for years are found all over historic homes and buildings. Adding layers to a room will never go out of style. I think so many of us are conditioned to hate wallpaper (and contrast trim) because we spent so much time removing it from a house. But there are also gorgeous wallpapers available and I hate the idea of holding back simply because I don’t want to remove it 15-20 years from now. My only hesitation with using it in my house is my ceiling heights: They’re 8′ on the first floor and 7’6″ on the second (funky cape cod). What are your thoughts on adding accents to shorter ceilings? I don’t want them to feel lower than they already are.

4 years ago

Sorry, but I can’t stand wallpapered ceilings! Every time I see Grace Mitchell wallpapering the ceiling on One of a Kind it kind of makes me nauseous. Deck out the floors, walls, lighting, furnishings and decor but please…leave the ceiling alone so that one can rest their eyes somewhere in a room.

4 years ago
Reply to  Cindy

I disagree that you need a blank ceiling to rest your eyes! We have a koi wallpaper ceiling in the his-and-here office in our 1925 Foursquare, and it’s the element that ties together an eclectic mix of treasures. In fact, When I need a break from work, I lie in the floor and stare up at it… it’s very zen! @HumeSweetHome on Instagram for pics!

Paige Cassandra Flamm
4 years ago

Anyone who has the patience to do more than just one solid color on a ceiling is a hero!


4 years ago

Nice in a muted colour perhaps, to bring out the textures of coving or architraves.
For a magnificently colouring ceiling, check out Zhang Enli’s work in the drawing room here:

Mia Tenille
4 years ago

I love these inspiration ideas for adding texture and color to any room! Especially wallpaper on the ceilings! Though, it’s not something that I’d imagine is easy to do and I feel like it wouldn’t look good if I did it myself (haha)! Just like removing wallpaper can be an absolute nightmare, so can cleaning up wallpaper remover from your carpet as it drips down! I’ve had it happened to me once before and this carpet cleaning company saved me!